[Community-news] OLPC News 2008-01-26

Walter Bender walter at laptop.org
Sat Jan 26 14:57:30 EST 2008

1. Davos, Switzerland: Nicholas reports that the World Economic Forum,
usually a storm, was a hurricane this year, with gale winds of press
and interest in OLPC. The Intel debacle dominated the debate far less
than he anticipated. The sheer existence of OLPC was marveled. The
traditional Saturday-morning breakfast debate, at which Intel and OLPC
have battled fiercely in the past, was not attended by Craig Barrett.

2. OLPC and Brightstar, along with Quanta, are reviewing current
inventory and the immediate production schedule to fulfill the balance
of the Give One Get One program. At present their is a gap in supply,
given the need for US keyboards and power supplies—most of the
remaining "Get" laptops will likely ship in March.

3. School server: John Watlington reports that the school server
software is moving along: a new release, including web caching and
minor bug fixes, is being tested and should be ready by Monday. This
release will also allow web filtering—we plan to use DansGuardian for
now—to be easily enabled. Countries will be responsible for selecting
and providing a list of filtered sites/content, but there are a number
of commercial suppliers of suitable lists as a starting point.
Upcoming development will concentrate on a short-term laptop backup
solution, the activation server, packaging the multicast updater that
has been so useful this week in Mongolia, and improving the ease of
configuration somewhat.

We have painfully discovered the limitations of the mesh and current
collaborative software in Mongolia, where the convolution of the
number of laptops with bugs #5335 (more mDNS traffic than expected)
and #5007 (mesh repeats multicast too much) make the perfect storm,
which prevents anybody from using the network. We will continue to
improve the mesh performance, but clear guidelines are needed as to
what network infrastructure to deploy under what conditions. Once a
certain density of students is exceeded, a wired backbone and
conventional access points will be required.

4. Embedded controller: Richard Smith finished up a round of EC code
changes for Update.1 and released PQ2D10, which went into system
firmware Q2D10. This firmware should enable safe suspend/resume
operation and it should be better at handling games key events as they
wakeup the laptop from suspend. Richard won't claim the bugs (Ticket
#6105: "New EC firmware in Q2D09 seems wonky") are fixed until it has
widespread testing. The keyboard handling code is quite complex.
Richard also modified the firmware build scripts so that they will
build a bootfw rpm package for inclusion into Joyride.

5. Batteries: Carla Gomez Monroy reports from Mongolia that the
batteries are not lasting as long as expected. The extreme cold was
the first suspect. Richard had Carla collect data via olpc-logbat and
ran some tests of his own in the freezer (which isn't as cold as
Ulaanbaatar). These data, along with a closer examination of the
GoldPeak data sheet, make it pretty obvious that batteries don't work
so well in the –20 to –40C range. The extreme cold makes the output
voltage drop considerably. The result is that at around the 50%
capacity mark the voltage is so low that the low-voltage cutoff kicks
in and shuts the laptop off. Richard does worry about when the
children take their XO laptops outside while suspended; the power
dissipation (and thus self-heating) is at its lowest. It may shut off.
The question to work out with our battery vendors is that is it OK to
de-rate the low-voltage shutoff when it's so cold. Will this do any
damage to the battery?

6. Testing: Chih-yu Chao spent most of the week on Update.1 testing
and test-case development. Test cases include power management,
suspend and ebook mode, activity isolation, network manager, scaling
tests, and localization of content bundle. Please review and help
execute these test cases (http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Update.1). Also
the automated olpc-update feature was tested as part of the final
testing for Ship.2-656.

Dennis Gilmore has released Update.1 Build 690 as the first release
candidate for Update.1 (See
Please give this build extensive testing. There have been some reports
of WEP and WPA problems with this build—expect these issues to be
addressed in a subsequent release candidate.

7. Schedule: Due to resources being diverted to help resolve some G1G1
issues; the Mongolia deployment; and the need to some bugs in OHM and
security, the Update.1 release is slipping. The current schedule is
reflected on the Roadmap page in the developer wiki
(http://dev.laptop.org/roadmap). To help with triage, it would be
great if people can look at the critical bugs that are currently
assigned to this release as well as the bugs coming in from testing.
Even more important: please help test! We can't say what the critical
bugs are if we haven't found them yet!

8. Support: Adam Holt and his support group continue to battle the
question of "when will I get my laptop." We are working with our
partners on a daily basis to get the numbers, order information,
production information, shipping information, and to compose emails
and set donor policies.

In Mongolia, Carla Gomez Monroy and Dave Woodhouse have been bringing
up 1000 laptops, battling issues associated with RF connectivity, and
the need to upgrade large numbers of laptops—because we rushed the
initial order to Ulaanbaatar, we didn't have time to update the build
in the factory. We are also starting to get the first "support" issues
for the laptops that have already been distributed to the children.

Adam organized another very successful Sunday conference-call for the support
team. This week's guest speakers were Anders Mogensen, who discussed
his observations of OLPC from a recent visit to Nigeria, and Joshua
Beal from Belkin, who discussed new power options and their potential
deployment consequences. Their generosity in speaking to the support
team, and answering all sorts of great questions, was exactly the
refresher the team needed among the shipping madness dragging it down.

Adam restructured the support team to more efficiently deal with the
scourge of billing/shipping issues flooding in from the Give One Get
One program, focusing on "one basically good response" for all, which
will include more detailed order tracking. Sandy Culver, Steve Holton,
Greg Babbing, and Guynn Prince
have been of exceptional help dealing with RMAs and "undeliverables."

9. Satellites: Michail Bletsas will be joining Thomas Jacobson and
Roland Burger for a workshop at the upcoming Satellite 2008 conference
in Washington DC on February 27 entitled: "Low-cost satellite Internet
infrastructure to support education in remote and developing regions."
The goals of this informal workshop will be to gather and document
design requirements and their justifications; to examine how current
products might be used to meet them; and to identify areas where
further research and development is needed. Exhibits-only registration
(free if you use VIP code BOF) is all that is needed if you would like
to join in the discussion.

10. Mesh: Cramming 500 laptops under the same roof is a difficult (but
tractable) engineering problem. We haven't done any testing of such
deployment scenarios and Mongolia is not really the most convenient
place for that testing. Despite that, common sense can still carry us
a long way. We have set the limit of XO laptops to school servers to
180 (60 per channel in mesh mode)—after optimizing the laptop for
"dense" deployment (which hasn't been a priority in our software
development schedules). However, deploying more school servers under
the same roof doesn't immediately translate to increased capacity,
since school servers don't add spectrum. While a school server still
costs several hundred dollars, it is more economical to install
standard low-cost access points instead of multiple servers. (The OLPC
mesh implementation was to maximize the "connected" time for sparse
deployments (children in villages in Cambodia, rural schools in
Rwanda) and to simplify and extend connectivity away from an access
11. OLPC infrastructure: Ivan Krstić completely overhauled the
public-facing infrastructure (wiki, static web, git, trac, hosting,
mail, mailing lists). We are now in much better shape and will
hopefully see less downtime on key systems such as dev.laptop.org.

12. Datastore: Ivan continues to work on a new DS specification that
was the outcome of the datastore summit held at the OLPC office in
Cambridge last week. He plans to have something to vet with the
community in a few weeks. Meanwhile, Marco Gritti, Tomeu Vizoso, and
Eben Eliason spent a second week in Cambridge working through a number
of design changes for the Sugar user experience that are potentially
targeted for Update.2. More on those proposals soon.

13. Security: Nortel's Marcus Leech continues his work on Rainbow, the
isolation shell for the Bitfrost security mechanism
(http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Bitfrost). He has provided invaluable
testing and patches, is developing a Rainbow filesystem verification
tool, and generally being incredibly helpful in moving Rainbow
development forward rapidly.

Michael Stone worked with Blake Setlow, visiting from Tower Research,
to rewrite the nss-rainbow module. Together, they succeeded in
removing the need for Rainbow to modify /etc/passwd. Now that they
understand the interface and the required debugging techniques,
Michael anticipates that /etc/group will straight-forward to handle.
He hopes to make a new Rainbow release early in the Update.2 cycle
incorporating these improvements.

Michael also updated or rewrote lots of dated documentation:


Finally, he researched several mechanisms for controlling and
monitoring network access, including SELinux, NetLabel, and a
sys_disablenetwork() patch. Experimentation will soon follow.

14. Licensing: Jon Phillips, Rebecca Rojer, and a team from Creative
Commons have put together an illustrated primer to "Sharing Creative
Works" (See http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Sharing_Creative_Works).
Jon observes that "in developing for OLPC, we have had to learn much
about licensing for kids and generally how to educate around the
topics." The primer will go into CC's custom licensing activity, which
allows for a disclaimer about child licensing, comics to describe the
concepts, and a license chooser (See

15. Activities: Arjan Sarwal completed his integration of sensor input
into Turtle Art. He has created a temporary fork called "Turtle Art
with sensors" that included a new palette containing sensor blocks. It
will be made available for download on the Activities page in the this

Arjan also undertook some experiments with the Measure activity with
high- school students at the Boston "Fab Lab." Children were
introduced to the sensor concept and they caught on quite well. They
arranged themselves into groups worked on projects: (A) using a touch
sensor switch to count the number of times people enter through a
particular door and display it in the form of a bar graph in Turtle
Art;(B) plotting the temperature vs time graph in the form of points
by using a temperature sensor connected to the XO laptop; and (C)
making a turtle draw a smiling face when a high note was played and a
sad face when the note was low note was played. Thanks to Edward Baafi
for his help in the session.

Manusheel Gupta, Marco Gritti, and Tomeu Vizoso modified the Read
activity to support DJVU and the TIFF format. Read activity can now be
easily extended to support the other common formats.

Manu also developed a framework and ideas for implementation of a
spreasheet activity. With input from Jim Gettys and Eben Eliason, he
has started an implementation based upon the GNumeric codebase. Manu
be discussing implementation ideas with Jody Goldberg from GNumeric
Team this week. Other people who are interested in working on the
activity should please chime in.

16. Keyboards: Bernardo Innocenti gave a tutorial to Arjan and Manu on
xkeyboard-config, xkb files and keyboard package maintenance. With
Bernie's help, Arjan made and sent three patches upstream this week.
Together with Walter Bender, they make some final touches to the
Devanagari and Armenian keyboards and made much progress on the Nepali
keyboard layout. (In regard to the latter, we are exploring the use of
Compose within the X Window System as an alternative to SCIM.) Walter
also roughed out Khmer and French keyboard layouts this week (See

17. Localization: Dr. Habib Khan reports from Islamabad that Salman
Minhas and Waqas Toor are progressing on Dari localization. Dari
language support is completed in XO core, XO bundle, and Update.1;
Etoys and Packaging are remaining. The strings in Pootle are now 100%
translated in Dari language. Translation in Pashto is 88% completed.
The XO core, Update.1, and Packaging are completed; Etoys and XO
bundle strings that will follow next. Undaunted by a Pootle bug that
was preventing them from committing strings in Pashto, Salman and
Waqas continue to work together with Afghan volunteers and hope to
accomplish the localization work in the near future.

A translation of an XO laptop user manual into the Dari and Pashto
languages was completed this week by our Afghan volunteers Osman and
Sohail. We appreciate their commitment and hard work. Next week, the
OLPC Pakistan team will give it a trial with teachers from an Afghan
local school in Islamabad.  Their review and feed back will help them
finalize the manual.

18. Accessibility: Jutta Treviranus, from the University of Toronto,
and Cynthia Waddell, executive director of the International Centre
for Disability Resources on the Internet (ICDRI) and the government
services accessibility expert for the United Nations Global Alliance
for Inclusive ICTs, would like to get involved in our efforts to make
the OLPC accessible. Jutta will try to organize a meet up of
interested parties in the coming months. In parallel, Rob Taylor,
Codethink, contacted Jim Gettys in regard to an investigation of
moving AT-SPI over to D-Bus (See

19. Library: SJ Klein led a review of repository and bundle use cases;
topics included the metadata needed for better tracking and sharing of
bundles and specific use cases from India and Nepal (Bryan Berry was
present). Lauren Klein, Martin Langhoff, Moodle, and Joshua Marks,
Curriki, joined a discussion of how children and teachers should
upload materials to the local network and to the Web. Curriki has
recently added groups features that allow for a customized OLPC portal
for educators (under development). They have an 80%-localized Hindi
version available that can be used off line in India.

Regarding metadata, it was recommended that bundles should include:
author, license, and URL. A new .info file format is being proposed
and is open for discussion. Mako Hill and Dennis Gilmore have helped
define how we should link to source information and identify
contributors to bundles (See

Collections that are in development and testing this week include: an
updated set of books from ICDL, with Mongolian stories and
higher-resolution images; a PDF version of Where There is No Doctor;
three language versions of the Holocaust Encyclopedia; flash math and
language materials from AJ van der Voort and the EFK foundation; and
compressed high-resolution PDFs from the Internet Archive curated by
Marcus Lucero.

20. Game Jams: Rut Jesus and perhaps others from OLPC Nederlands will
be joining some 150 developers at the Nordic Game Jam next weekend in

21. Health:  Adam Holt helped Arjun Sarwal to organize a group of
volunteers around the theme of OLPC and health (See
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Health). Together, they have developed a
leadership/coordination model to drive this initiative forward.
Interest in Health collections has also spiked recently, with Arjan,
David Greisen, Erica Frank, Anna Bershteyn, Mika Matsuzaki, Ian
Daniher, and Seth Woodworth all working on related projects.
Discussions around these topics are ongoing on the Library mailing


Walter Bender
One Laptop per Child

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